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How to avoid the BitTorrent blockade

Steps to take to ensure you can still use P2P

More and more internet service providers are blocking traffic to P2P file-sharing services. Find out whether you've been targeted, and learn how to get around the restrictions.

With this in mind we've rounded up a number of tips and tools that can help you determine whether you're facing a BitTorrent blockade and, if so, help you get around it.

Vuze, a company that makes peer-to-peer (P2P) software and uses the platform to distribute content, published a study in April in which it concluded that all US broadband providers including; AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, ComCast Time Warner Cable and Verizon disrupt P2P traffic. Vuze asserted that these ISPs regularly send 'false reset' messages to the Vuze software with the aim of slowing file transfers.

AT&T has flatly denied this claim. "AT&T does NOT disrupt P2P traffic," said a spokesperson for the ISP. Subsequently, Vuze has softened its charge against ISPs, stating that "Our data collection was credible and transparent, but not conclusive," in the words of Jay Monahan, Vuze general counsel.

Other ISPs have acknowledged imposing some limitations on P2P traffic. Comcast first denied but now admits to interrupting access to file-sharing programs such as BitTorrent. Comcast executive vVice president David L. Cohen explained at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing last February that disrupting BitTorrent traffic was a reasonable method of traffic management during busy usage periods.

A Comcast spokesman told PC Advisor: "Comcast does not, has not, and will not block any websites or online applications, including peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent. We have acknowledged that we manage peer-to-peer traffic in a limited manner to minimize network congestion. While we believe our current network management approach was a reasonable choice, we are now working with a variety of companies including BitTorrent and confirm our March announcement that we will move to a protocol-agnostic network management technique no later than December 31, 2008."

Time Warner Cable spokesperson Alex Dudley says that his company takes reasonable steps to manage its network, including limiting bandwidth to applications such as P2P software.

Torrent to a trickle

If you suspect that your ISP is blocking your BitTorrent traffic, call your ISP and ask whether you're being blocked. But don't trust that you'll get a straight answer.

A customer of US ISP Road Runner and BitTorrent user from Bar Harbor, Maine is a good example. This user (who asked that his name not be used for fear that his ISP would treat him unfairly) called Road Runner's tech support when his BitTorrent download speeds dropped to a sluggish 8KB per second (KBps).

When he asked what was going on, a support rep reprimanded him for using BitTorrent software and accused him of downloading copyright-protected music. At the same time, the tech said he couldn't comment on bandwidth management issues.

"I was baffled by the entire exchange," the Road Runner customer said, noting that he was not trying to download copyright-protected content. "I pay a monthly fee for internet access. I shouldn't be limited to watching You Tube videos, browsing the web, and checking my email." (Road Runner's parent company, Time Warner Cable, says that it does not block P2P traffic to BitTorrent, but that it does manage its network in ways that would keep BitTorrent traffic in check.)

NEXT PAGE: How to test your own connection speed

  1. Steps to take to ensure you can still use P2P
  2. How to test your own connection speed
  3. Another method for evading an ISP's throttling practices
  4. What the future holds for file sharers

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